U.S. Olympians

Nov. 29, 1999
Nov. 29, 1999

Table of Contents
Nov. 29, 1999

20th Century Celebration
Sports Illustrated 20th Century Sports Awards

U.S. Olympians

Bonnie Blair

This is an article from the Nov. 29, 1999 issue

As the world's premier female speed skater from 1988 through
'94, she won five Olympic gold medals--more than any other U.S.
woman, in summer or winter competition.

"She stands as a 5'4", 130-pound rebuke to every sucker who said
he would play the game for nothing but won't suit up for a cent
less than $68 million...and to every Just-Win-Baby boor, be he
in the owner's box or the AD's office or the Little League
dugout. Just win, baby, is about all she does, but that's not
why she does it. Winning isn't everything, or the only thing, or
necessarily anything."
--STEVE RUSHIN SI, Dec. 19, 1994

Carl Lewis

Throughout the 1980s and into the early '90s, no one could run
faster or jump farther more consistently than Lewis, a 10-time
Olympic medalist, nine of them golds.

"Carl loathes mystery. The day he sails farther, he must know
every element that created the jump, he must know how to
duplicate it, he must feel he controlled it--or it won't be a
triumph. In the long jump, as in life, Lewis must happen to
it--he cannot let it happen to him."
--GARY SMITH SI, July 18, 1984

Al Oerter

The four-time Olympic discus champion is one of only two
athletes to win gold in four consecutive Games ('56, '60, '64,

"It is part of the Oerter mystique that he was never favored to
win an Olympics. Especially not his first, in 1956, when he was
a 20-year-old at Kansas and faced world-record holder Fortune
Gordien, also of the U.S. Yet Oerter won, and the old master
took it hard. Gordien went home and raised a son, Marcus.
Trained him to be better than his father. Twenty-two years
later, at the Pepsi Invitational at UCLA, he sent Marcus, then
23, out to throw against Al Oerter, then 43. Oerter beat him."
--KENNY MOORE SI, July 25, 1988

Mark Spitz

He was a nine-time Olympic gold medalist; his seven in 1972 made
him the most decorated athlete in any one Olympics.

"Spitz seems to glide through the water with great economy. Long
of upper arm and curiously possessed of the ability to flex his
legs forward at the knees, Spitz is one of those rare swimmers
who inspire coaches to talk themselves silly about man's harmony
with the elements."

Jesse Owens

At the 1936 Olympics he won gold medals in the 100- and
200-meter dashes, 4x100-meter relay and broad jump.

"Owens seemed to glory in overcoming obstacles. He preached that
if a man worked hard enough, if he endured racial taunts the way
Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis had, he would succeed, he would
win the white man's respect and things would change."
--KENNY MOORE SI, Aug. 5, 1991

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

She was the greatest female track and field athlete ever, with
six Olympic medals from 1984 through '96; her '88 heptathlon
world record still stands.

"The measure of Joyner-Kersee's greatness came not from a
stopwatch or the infernal charts that score the heptathlon. A
fuller gauge was the purity of her efforts, which seemed so
often to rise up from her soul, and the impact that she had on
her sport and on women."
--TIM LAYDEN SI, Aug. 3, 1998